An airstrike that targeted a convoy of arm smugglers inside Sudan in January was launched by Israeli warplanes and not US ones, according to growing reports. On March 25, a Sudanese government official said that a “major power bombed small trucks carrying arms” northwest of Port Sudan city killing Sudanese, Eritreans and Ethiopians. But CBS News quoted unidentified US officials denying involvement in the operation—and saying “Israeli aircraft carried out the attack.”
An Egyptian newspaper al-Shurooq had reported earlier this week that US planes destroyed a convoy heading towards the borders carrying arms believed to be on its way to Gaza strip. It also quoted an unidentified Egyptian official as suggesting that the planes flew from US bases in Djibouti.
However, one official quoted by CBS said: “Israeli intelligence is said to have discovered that weapons were being trucked through Sudan, heading north toward Egypt, whereupon they would cross the Sinai Desert and be smuggled into Hamas-held territory in Gaza.” Unnamed US officials later told the New York Times that intelligence reports indicated an operative from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had gone to Sudan to coordinate the effort.
In Tel Aviv, Israeli officials speaking refused to comment on the report of an air strike in Sudan or on the role that Israel may have played in that attack. The US signed an agreement with Israel in January that calls for an international effort to stem the flow of weaponry and explosives to complement those of Egypt.
The convoy is believed to have consisted of 17 trucks carrying 39 passengers. All the vehicles were reportedly destroyed in the operation. None of those on board the trucks are believed to have survived the attack. (Sudan Tribune, NYT, March 26)
While Israel had no official comment on the reports, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took the opportunity to boast: “We operate everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure—in close places, in places further away, everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure, we hit them and we hit them in a way that increases deterrence.”
Speaking at a press conference, Olmert said: “It was true in the north in a series of incidents and it was true in the south, in a series of incidents. There is no point in going into detail, and everybody can use their imagination. Those who need to know, know. And those who need to know, know that there is no place where Israel cannot operate. There is no place like that.”
He added: “Israel has never had stronger deterrence than it has gained in the last few years.” (Jerusalem Post, March 25)